By EYTAN HALON
By 2030, Israel’s population is expected to rapidly grow from almost nine million citizens to more than 11 million, four times greater than the average population growth rate in the developed world.
The unprecedented population boom is predicted to have a significant impact on many sectors of Israeli life — the economy, environment, education system, and, of course, the health system.
The health system, in particular, will face the critical challenge of caring for an increasingly aging and elderly population.
According to population projections published by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2013, Israel’s elderly population is expected to reach about 1.66 million people by 2035, or 14.6 percent of the population.
Speaking at a Ministry of Health-organized conference discussing the health system’s readiness for the decade ahead, ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said plans are being made “with an understanding that the decade will be the most challenging for the health system yet.”
Challenges faced by the health system today, including rising medication prices, overcrowding in hospitals, and long waiting times, will continue to require increased intervention and resources over the coming ten years.
“Technological developments will change the way we manage the system, but these developments also pose social, ethical, and economical dilemmas,” said Bar Siman Tov.
“These dilemmas are not straightforward today, and they will become more complicated in the future.”
Comparatively low health care costs currently enjoyed by Israelis will need to rise in the future, Bar Siman Tov said, while the ministry believes the public will be willing to pay more as long as they understand that it will receive improved treatment in return.
Last year, Health Ministry management opted to build a strategic plan until 2030 based on trends expected to shape the future of medicine.
“I am pleased to know that you are planning for the coming years,” President Reuven Rivlin told the conference, applauding the hundreds of doctors and other health workers present.
“The ability to hold strategic-level debates now for the next decade is testament to the health of the health system. It is a system that doesn’t just put out fires, rather it is busy with programming looking to the future.”
While developments in medical technology and research will occupy an increasingly central part in global health, Rivlin urged decision-makers to remember the importance of human touch in medicine — by extending the hours of well-baby clinics (tipat chalav), for example.
“I hope that one day, the shared life present in health system will spread outside to the rest of society,” said Rivlin.
“Look at Hadassah Hospital, 50 percent of the doctors are Arab and 50 percent are Jewish. The same is the case for patients, nurses, and sanitary workers. Learn from the hospitals. I hope that the day will come when we can all live together, with hope for all Israeli citizens.”
Addressing the conference, Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman cited the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which placed Israel as the 10th leading economy according to factors contributing to overall health.
“Even if there are problems, and there are, our health system is strong and we are proud of it,” said Litzman.
“We want this to continue… and we have a lot of objectives to advance. The primary one is the problem of overcrowding in emergency rooms and internal hospital wards.”
Litzman also cited the Health Ministry’s “war on smoking,” including the second stage of a law limiting the advertising of cigarette and tobacco products, set to enter into force later this week.
From Friday, existing restrictions on tobacco products will also be applicable to electronic cigarettes and all other non-tobacco smoking products. Restrictions include a ban on smoking in public places.
A wide-ranging ban on advertising tobacco products will also be implemented, including on websites, billboards and event sponsorship. Signs advertising smoking will be permitted in dedicated smoking-related shops.
Advertisements will still be permitted in written publications, such as newspapers, but will be limited to one advertisement per publication. Thirty percent of the advertisement must be a health warning.
In addition, all packs of smoking products, except for cigars and pipe tobacco, will be uniform and colored Pantone 448C, a drab dark brown color also described as the “ugliest in the world.” (JPost)